Plan the perfect garden with our interactive tool →

Facts About a Magnolia Leaf

...
Brand X Pictures/Brand X Pictures/Getty Images

While the flowers are certainly a highlight of the southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), the evergreen leaves are a large part of this tree’s ornamental appeal. Grown in U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 6b through 9, the southern magnolia serves varied functions in a landscape. The foliage of this tree can become one of its more exasperating features when it finally does fall off as new replacement leaves grow in.

Features

Magnolia leaves grow on the stems in an alternate arrangement. They are simple leaves with an elliptical shape. Between 5 and 10 inches in length, the leaves are from 2 to 5 inches wide. Magnolia leaves feel thick and leathery; the leafstalks attaching them to the branches are stout and have a coating of hairs. The leaf margins (edges) are what botanists term “entire,” meaning they lack any serrations.

  • While the flowers are certainly a highlight of the southern magnolia (Magnolia grandiflora), the evergreen leaves are a large part of this tree’s ornamental appeal.
  • Magnolia leaves feel thick and leathery; the leafstalks attaching them to the branches are stout and have a coating of hairs.

Colors

The upper surface of a southern magnolia leaf is a glossy shade of dark green, but the leaf underside is paler green, often with a coating of fine brown hairs that give it a rusty appearance. Cultivars of the southern magnolia have subtle differences in their leaf colors. “Little Gem” has shiny green leaves with brownish-bronze underside coloring. “Edith Bogue” has similar colors, but the undersides are a bit lighter. “Bracken’s Brown Beauty” has bi-colored foliage -- green on top but rust-brown beneath.

Problems

Magnolias are by no means a “tidy” tree, notes the Washington State University Clark County Extension. The leaves on the magnolia normally fall off in the springtime as new foliage grows on the stems to take its place. The leaves are very slow to decompose, creating a mess under the magnolia that requires a clean-up. Leaving the foliage in place beneath the tree results in a layer of leaves so thick nothing will grow under it -- including grass.

  • The upper surface of a southern magnolia leaf is a glossy shade of dark green, but the leaf underside is paler green, often with a coating of fine brown hairs that give it a rusty appearance.
  • The leaves are very slow to decompose, creating a mess under the magnolia that requires a clean-up.

Leaves of Other Magnolias

Other magnolia tree suitable for landscaping jobs have leaves with varying features. For example, the cucumber magnolia (Magnolia acuminata) has deciduous leaves as long as 12 inches, with a yellow-green color. The foliage of the sweetbay magnolia (Magnolia virginiana) is evergreen in the warmth of the Deep South, but falls off in the northern regions where it grows. The star magnolia (Magnolia stellata) is deciduous, with its dark green leaves going to yellow-brown before coming off late in autumn, making a mess on the ground.

Related Articles

How to Identify Magnolia Trees by Their Leaves
How to Identify Magnolia Trees by Their Leaves
Magnolia Tree Identification
Magnolia Tree Identification
What Does a Tulip Tree Look Like?
What Does a Tulip Tree Look Like?
Problems With Magnolia Trees
Problems With Magnolia Trees
Information on Magnolia Trees in Florida
Information on Magnolia Trees in Florida
Live Oak Tree Identification
Live Oak Tree Identification
Black Mold With Flies on a Magnolia Tree
Black Mold With Flies on a Magnolia Tree
How to Care for Sweetbay Magnolia Trees
How to Care for Sweetbay Magnolia Trees
How To Tell What Type of Tree I Have
How To Tell What Type of Tree I Have
Other Names for Magnolia Trees
Other Names for Magnolia Trees
Dogwood Tree Leaf Identification
Dogwood Tree Leaf Identification
The Best Magnolia Trees
The Best Magnolia Trees
Magnolia Tree Bark Diseases
Magnolia Tree Bark Diseases
What Do Persimmon Trees Leaves Look Like?
What Do Persimmon Trees Leaves Look Like?
Garden Guides
×